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Fast Food, A Healthy Option?

Fast Food, A Healthy Option?

October 11, 2007 —

The obesity epidemic in the United States is cause for concern, not only for individuals, but also for the broader society. The cost of public health in this area could become enormous in the coming years and activists are demanding that restaurants display information on the nutritional benefits (or lack thereof) of their food so consumers can make choices based on ‘personal responsibility.’ Not all food at restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King, or other major chains is necessarily bad for you, but it is important to make good decisions in order to maintain a healthy diet.

With 60% of Americans overweight, the CDC acknowledges that the fast food industry has contributed to Americans’ ever-expanding waistlines, and recommends reading food labels and getting nutritional information before eating anything. Fast foods are very appealing because they are widely available and inexpensive.  Despite the convenience, it is important to choose fast foods carefully if a person intends to maintain a healthy diet.  The U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health web site suggests that people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease must be much more careful about choosing fast food, due to the high content of fat, sodium, and sugar.

Not all fast food is created equally.  There are healthy, albeit more expensive, fast food options. Au Bon Pain rejects using dangerous trans-fatty acids and bakes its bread with only organic ingredients. Each store has a “nutrition kiosk” that provides patrons with a nutritional breakdown of every item on their menu. In addition, Chipotle Grill – which McDonalds owns a controlling stake in the chain – is also more committed to health-conscious food than many other fast food chains. A number of web sites and groups choose the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ among fast food and no single chain seems to have a monopoly in either category. So you need to be careful regarding what you choose and recognize that it may not be matter what restaurant you are in, rather it matters what you order.

Consumers can educate themselves through various web sites. provides nutritional summaries for almost every item at fast food restaurants, including a Caloric Ratio Pyramid, Nutritional Balance Indicator, and a Nutritional Target Map.  The National Restaurant Association also sponsors a web site called ‘Healthy Dining Finder’ (at – restaurants have to enroll in the program), which is partially funded by the CDC and “represents a voluntary and proactive demonstration of the restaurant industry’s commitment to supporting healthier lifestyles.”  Even the most notorious fast food chains such as McDonalds and Burger King offer salads and other healthier alternatives to the traditional Big Mac or Whopper. 

Comment on this article:

No one who eats a bunch of

Submitted by Anonymous on November 11, 2008 - 20:44.

No one who eats a bunch of burgers from wherever is going to give a rat's rectum about the nutritional label. The pyramid isn't correct anyways.. look it up. For those who want to eat healthy, they should already know that something which is deep-fried is bad for their diet.

I think the reason they want this change, is because they want the prices of fast food to rise, so that it will deter people from purchasing it. Putting an extra label on everything will cause the cost to rise.

Most restaurants offer healthier foods than what is on the normal menu. The truth is, if you want to eat healthy, stay out of the drivethrough!


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